Queen Vic-straw-ia and her Grainadier Guard, my family’s submission to a local village scarecrow-making competition is complete and ready for the crowds of people that visited the displays last year. My wife and daughter created Her Majesty (a very fine job indeed, I’m sure you’ll agree) and I made the guardsman (naturally enough).
In my last post I had finished making the head out of papier mache. Next, I stuffed his uniform with straw and stuck his head to a cardboard tube.
For a belt, I’ve stuck some white paper on to one of my old belts. I notice that the buttons on my uniform are grouped in threes which therefore makes it a Scots Guard! No plume is worn by that regiment, just a bearskin, so that made it easier for me.
For the rifle, I’ve borrowed some (toy) military hardware from the young son of a friend – on the understanding that it is returned to him in the same condition. So, as some temporary modifications I’ve used some brown paper to cover what was a bright green plastic stock. I’m intending to make it less like a lime-green Space Marine’s assault rifle and a tiny bit more like a .303 Lee-Metford or Short Magazine Lee Enfield. The orange end of the barrel seen in the photos above I’ve since covered in black tape.
The hands were a late addition. I was hoping for skin coloured marigolds or maybe white gloves but they’ll have to do. A couple of sturdy wooden poles up the legs and hammered into the ground will, I’m hoping, keep the whole thing upright and standing to attention!
Wait a minute – what’s this just around the corner from our pitch…?
Goddammit! Another one! And we’re gonna need a bigger bearskin! I’m seeing four buttons on the tunic and yet there’s no blue plume? Pah! Clearly these amateurs don’t know the Irish Guards uniform very well… 😉
As a final flourish, I’m planning to play “Soldiers of the Queen” on repeat from my military band music collection. Hopefully, Queen Vicstrawia and the Guardsman might even attract a few votes from the visitors to the competition? Wish us luck!
My in-laws live in a village which holds a scarecrow competition each year. This year the girls and I thought we’d help out and make our own for them. For those unfamiliar with this kind of competition – see this example. Bad puns for the scarecrows are a feature of this kind of festival. The theme for the scarecrow contest this year was “Best of British”.
We elected to help out the in-laws and create this year’s scarecrows. My wife and daughter thought they might create Queen Vicstrawia in her iconic seated pose from late in her reign. I immediately suggested she needed a military escort, her very own GrainadierGuard!
Luckily, I managed to pick up a child’s Guardsman costume for only £5. Dating from the 1960s, it’s in perfect condition and is fabulously well made using quality materials (no plastic buttons here – metal only).
There’s some nice detailing on the back too…
First off, I needed to make a head. So a bit of papier-mâché, using a balloon as a template, I hoped would do the trick. Not done this before and my first attempt was a bit of a let down – literally! The balloon had a slow puncture and gradually went down leaving the head ended up all shrunken and wrinkled…
My second attempt came good. Getting into my papier-mâché stride, I added a rudimentary nose, brows and ears…
I slapped on a little poster paint and then started to think about hair. A trip into town to the charity shops allows me to track down some cheap, black felt material from a rags bin. I also find a thin, feathery, black boa which will do for facial hair. Et voila, we have a guardsman’s face!
I see my scaling for the head has – ah – somewhat overestimated the much smaller bearskin! Never mind, I’m pleased with it and ‘comical’ is what I’m after. But now I’ve got to somehow attach that head to the body… but before that I’ve also got to create and stuff the arms and legs… and then the whole thing will need to magically stand to attention!
This scarecrow building is harder than I thought it would be. Wish me luck!
Based and almost ready for action: men of the 37th (North Hampshire) Regiment of Foot stand at ease.
Prior to basing, they experienced a pre-emptive strike by my young cat, Marnie. She accidentally knocked them all off the table and they consequently suffered a little from a hard landing on the kitchen floor. I’ve tried to cover over areas of chipped paint but a few areas inevitably have been missed, I’m afraid.
I like the individuality of the figures, I’m particularly fond of this little private conversation going on in the rear rank…
The 37th Regiment featured in many significant campaigns and battles of the 18th century, including the battles of Blenheim, Quebec, Dettingen, Culloden, and Brandywine, amongst others. It spent much of the Napoleonic Wars on garrison duty in the West Indies and Gibraltar but did, however, serve in the closing stages of the Peninuslar War in 1814 where it won a battle honour.
It was absent from the Waterloo campaign, being sent for service in Canada. So perhaps it’s quite appropriate that these Waterloo-era figures to appear in such a casual and relaxed state?
As we are in Spring here in the UK, I’ve based them in a springlike meadow with flowers and lush grass. Bees are buzzing and birds are singing in this pastoral lull with the thought of hostilities far from their minds.
Below, a private in the rear rank seems more interested in the pleasures of the baggage train to the rear than any enemy to the front…
Tricky to pick out the details but nevertheless great fun to do. I’ve still got some officers to share for this group, whenever I get around to finishing them.
For a fabulous example of what can be achieved with this range of Strelets ‘non-combat’ figures, hop on over to Pat’s 1:72 Military Diorama’s blog and view his Peninsular War “Retreat to Corunna” diorama – endlessly interesting and with nearly 270 figures, a damn sight more ambitious than my own little line up!
As for me, I do still have a couple of sprues spare and was thinking of producing some Rifle Brigade or Belgian Infantry figures sometime too.
Another instalment of my Personalities of the Crimean War series, featuring figures by Strelets:
Field Marshal FitzRoy James Henry Somerset, 1st Baron Raglan
The commander-in-chief of the British army in the Crimean War began his army career playing a full part in the Peninsular War. He later served in the Waterloo campaign as aide-de-camp and military secretary to Wellington. The carnage of the battle of Waterloo cost Somerset the amputation of his right arm.
Somerset retained his close association with the Duke of Wellington and, having been promoted to Lieutenant-General during the years of peace after Waterloo, was appointed to command the British army in the Crimean campaign with a brevet rank of full General. In 1852, he was raised to the peerage and became known as the 1st Baron Raglan.
Success at the battles of Alma and Inkerman led to his promotion to Field Marshal, but as the privations of the Crimean winter took its toll on his men, Raglan began to receive criticism in the press, although whether it was entirely fair is debatable.
A poorly executed failed assault on the defences of Sevastopol piled the pressure on the commander and, being weakened by dysentery and a depressive illness, Raglan died whilst still on campaign in June 1855.
Lieutenant General Sir Henry John William Bentinck
With both of Henry Bentinck’s brothers being generals, and his father a Major-General, senior command in the army was virtually a family business. Bentinck began his army service as an ensign in the Coldstream Guards and by 1841, he was an aide-de-camp to Queen Victoria and a brevet colonel.
By the time Bentinck landed in the Crimea with his regiment, he was a Major-General. He took part in the battles of Alma, Balaclava and Inkerman, being badly wounded in the arm in the latter. Despite the wound, he continued to serve in the siege of Sevastopol.
On his return from the Crimea, he was created a K.C.B. and promoted to the rank of General. Bentinck died in 1875.
Lieutenant General Sir Charles Ash Windham
The fourth son of an admiral, as with most of the generals featured in my British personalities series, Windham began his career in a prestigious guards regiment; the Coldstreams. From the rank of Ensign, he went on to purchase a series of promotions throughout the 1830s and 1840s.
After service in Canada, Windham returned to England in 1842 where he remained until the outbreak of the Crimean War. Achieving his colonelcy in June 1854, he was then appointed Assistant Quartermaster General of the 4th Division for the campaign. He soon became renowned for making clear his stern criticism of the poor military leadership of the British army at this time.
At Sevastopol, he was given command of the main British attack on the Great Redan. The result was a failure in which he personally rode back to beg for more reinforcements to continue the assault which had achieved its objective but was ill-equipped to hold it. Windham received criticism from soldiers in his command but was made a popular hero by William Russell, the Times War Correspondent, who declared that Windham’s gallant conduct had saved “the honour of the army”.
Windham’s career continued to be dogged by controversy and mixed opinions as he served in the Indian Mutiny and in Canada until he eventually died while convalescing in Florida in 1870.
The son of an M.P., James Estcourt’s first appointment in the army was as an Ensign in the 44th Regiment. Transferring to the 43rd Regiment, Estcourt served in Gibraltar and later on the Euphrates Valley Expedition. His services on this journey of science and exploration led to his promotion to Lt-Colonel.
Successful service on a boundary commission in Canada and a friendship with Lord Raglan helped Estcourt, now a Brigadier-General, to be appointed Adjutant General for the campaign. However, together with General Airey, he was criticised by a press who considered them both responsible for the winter privations and terrible suffering of the troops.
Stoutly defended by Raglan, Estcourt was appointed Major-General in December 1854, despite the ongoing criticism. Ironically, he fell victim to the same insanitary conditions for which he was being held by some to be responsible and succumbed to cholera in June 1855.
According to the Dictionary of National Biography, his friend and mentor Lord Raglan was “afraid to attend the funeral, for fear of showing his grief; but the last visit he paid before his own death, was to Estcourt’s tomb.”
Major General Sir Henry William Barnard
Sir Henry William Barnard obtained a commission in the 1st Foot Guards in 1814. A newly made Major-General, Barnard landed in the Crimea in 1854, in command of a brigade in the 3rd division of the army, with which he was present during the winter of 1854–5.
Through their figure, Strelets have nicely referenced Roger Fenton’s above photograph of General Barnard posing with a foot on a shell. Whether or not the pose was deliberately made at Fenton’s request, by delicately resting his boot on the shell, the stance nicely suggests something of the violence and danger at the same time as the fragility of the combatants. It’s just one of the postures that Strelets have employed in their Crimean range that is really pleasing to me, painting becomes the act of bringing to life a brief moment from over 150 years ago.
When former chief-of-staff General Simpson succeeded to Commander-in-Chief, Barnard in turn became his chief-of-staff, a position he held at the fall of Sevastopol in September 1855. He later succeeded to the command of the 2nd Division.
In 1857, Barnard took an active command in the Indian Mutiny and won the crucial battle of Badli-ki-Serai but died of cholera on 5 July 1857, eleven weeks before the fall of Delhi to the British.
I thought my recently finished Cheshire Rifle Volunteers deserved some means of proclaiming who they are supposed to represent. The solution was both surprisingly cheap and easy to get hold of, I was pleased to discover. So here they are; my final photos of the Cheshire Greys now with an engraved plaque.
…And in the final pic, I reveal the identity of my next intended Rifle Volunteer group by plaque!
Presenting the finished group of Cheshire Rifle Volunteers! My little cohort consists of men of the 1st Cheshire Rifle Volunteer Corps under instruction from an officer. Out on the rifle range, they are firing their Martini-Henry rifles at targets some 300 yards away. The year is 1884 and a county-wide shooting competition is but a week away. Some further rifle practice is needed if the Cheshire Grey’s best shots are to be in with a chance of winning that silver cup…
A little research revealed to me that the remains of long-forgotten Victorian volunteer rifle ranges do still exist around the UK, some being more readily visible than others. It seems that many of these rifle ranges fell out of use sometime before the Rifle Volunteers final absorption into the new Territorial Force in 1908. Perhaps a dwindling interest in the movement was to blame, but after 1908 I suspect that the Territorial Force’s closer ties to the county regiments of the regular army meant the volunteer battalions might have made use of the regular’s facilities instead.
Finding appropriate drill space and rifle ranges in the early years of the movement occasionally proved problematic and caused friction with the local population. However, during the heydey of the Rifle Volunteers, the activities of the local corps could become important social events. In 1861, for example, a county-wide rifle competition was watched by a crowd estimated to be up to 30,000!
The Rifle Volunteer movement always emphasised high standards of marksmanship. So, target practice at the rifle range – described at the time as ‘that interesting, healthful and manly exercise which the Rifle movement is supposed to supply’ – was seen as the main way of maintaining the enthusiasm and skill of the volunteers. An 1864 account of a Buckinghamshire Volunteers rifle competition suggests that the chief source of motivation wasn’t always the silverware however:
“The Volunteers were cheered in no small way by the presence of a good sprinkling of the Ladies, who with a bravery not common to the sex, boldly faced the wind and appeared to take great interest in the proceedings…”
A 2015 story in a provincial newspaper reported on the discovery of an old rifle range which had been apparently completely forgotten by the local community. Using a metal detector, a former soldier turned amateur archaeologist was first alerted to its existence when he discovered many Victorian-era bullets in the area, saying “...the oldest is the .577/450 Martini-Henry, which came into service in 1871 and is famous for being used during the Anglo-Zulu war of 1879.”
He located an 1880 edition of a map of the area and discovered the rifle range was clearly marked upon it. The locator of the range, Mr Beddard, goes on to describe how the range is depicted on this old map:
“It was marked ‘volunteers’, with the firing positions running from the Dudley direction for 850 yards, spaced out every 50 yards up to the target area. Some have marked firing trenches, some have raised firing positions.”
For my own models, I’ve simply included a distance marking post with my group, demonstrating that they are firing at a range of 300 yards from the targets. Not sure what form these posts would have taken, so I’ve simply used my imagination here!
A 2012 archaeological survey report by Herefordshire Council of a Rifle Volunteers’ firing range on Bromyard Downs provides a further insight into the nature of a Victorian Rifle Volunteer’s rifle range:
“The Bromyard range was, like most Volunteer ranges, extremely simple, though some were even more basic in the facilities they offered. Simplest of all was the range on Coppet Hill, Goodrich, with a single lane ending at a target in a small excavation marked as an old quarry, with no intermediate firing points indicated and no flagstaffs. At Aston Ingham near Newent, too, a single target was accommodated in a small delve cut into the rising ground”
Others, it seems, could be more elaborate. Some would feature shelters for the riflemen acting as markers and observers. These took the form of emplacements behind the butts or as brick huts placed to the side of the range. Shooting platforms or trenches were sometimes provided, although I imagine that for many ranges firing positions would consist simply of open grassland with distance marker posts – as in my little diorama. In the Bromyard Downs report, it goes on to describe the target end of the range:
At the butts end, the map shows the targets (plural) as a solid square structure projecting forward from a short straight line. Immediately behind the targets was a backstop shown as an earthwork mound 11 yards long with its west end curving forwards. As well as a backstop, this may have acted as a mantlet, protecting the Volunteers on marking duty. Behind that… was a second embankment on the hillside above, no doubt to stop high rounds from ricocheting off the rising ground; the map bears the legend ‘Butts’ between the two embankments. There was also a flagstaff a few yards to the east, which would have given formal warning that firing was taking place and would have aided the shooters by indicating wind strength and direction at the target.
Stop giggling at the back! There is nothing amusing about being ‘at the butt’s end’. In the example of the Bromyard range, it seems possible that the targets consisted of a marked iron plate, a notion supported by a number of severely flattened spent bullets.
Next, I might put a label on the wooden plinth indicating what the figures represent…
Well, as the painting of these Perry Miniatures figures have been far from anything like a pain in the ‘butt’, be warned that I’ll be continuing this little Volunteer Rifle Corps project with my next small batch of riflemen representing another corps, some of which have already been glued together. More details to follow!
As the finishing touches were applied to my Perry Miniatures hussars, I discovered an interesting fact. The regiment that I have painted, the 19th Hussars, were known by the nickname of “The Dumpies”. Apparently, this was an unflattering reference to the below-average height of men in the regiment.
With its origins as an Indian army regiment (the 1st Bengal Light Cavalry), regulations concerning height restrictions were more relaxed than in other British cavalry regiments. As a consequence, the greater proportion of shorter men in the regiment earned them the nickname ‘The Dumpies’. Being a chap of shorter stature myself, this sounds like exactly my sort of regiment!
It seems that the 19th Hussars might have also acquired a more inspiring nickname; “The Terrors of the East”. At a mere 28mm in height, I personally think that “The Dumpies” is a name perfectly suited to my three hussar figures.
There are still nine more hussar figures in this range available from Perry Miniatures, Six of them feature more dynamic poses (charging) and the remaining three include a trumpeter, an NCO and an officer. I fully intend ‘at some point’ in the future to purchase these too and add them to my other ‘dumpies’.
As for my next painting assignment which I’ve been making plans for – all will be revealed in a forthcoming post…
Earlier this year I painted some figures for a ‘Group Build’ on the very wonderful Benno’s Figures Forum. These were then sent over to Germany for a talented chap called Jan to build into a display alongside many other figures also received from fellow forum members across Europe and the US.
The idea behind the project was to assemble a long column of marching figures taking in different historical periods while representing the painter’s own country or region. I painted the 17th Regiment (representing my county of Leicestershire) using RedBox’s British infantry circa 1750.
17th Regiment of Foot, c.1750s
Soldier of the 17th Regiment, c.1750s.
This week, the project has finally been declared “finished” and photos of the final, grand diorama were posted on the forum. The display featured proudly at last weekend’s FIGZ wargaming & miniatures event in Holland. I feel very proud to have contributed a little something to this project alongside my talented fellow figure painters from across the globe.
So, here’s where my 17th Regiment boys ended up after Jan’s magic treatment – marching through the woodland of the US / Canadian border around the time of the French-Indian War (1754-63).
And here are some photos of the wonderful figures which comprised the rest of the march:
The contributors, their nations and figures:
Paul, Great Britain – Grenadier Guards with marching band. Astronauts. Prussian Infantry, circa 1806.
Sascha, Germany – Prussian grenadiers, circa 1760. Napoleonic Westfalian Infantry.
Arekmaximus, Poland – Late Roman Infantry
Dykio, Netherlands – Soldiers painted in the colours of the ADO Den Haag football team!
Michael Roberts, France – French Revolutionary Infantry
Gunnar, Sweden – British Grenadiers, circa 1770s. Swedish Infantry circa 1700.
Giorgio, Italy – Napoleonic Austrian Infantry
Konrad, Germany – Napoleonic Highlanders
Edwardian, Great Britain – 14th Middlesex (Inns of Court) Rifle Volunteer Corps, circa 1897.
Remco, Netherlands – Napoleonic Dutch Infantry and a flagbearer with a FIGZ flag!
Peter, Belgium – Napoleonic Belgian Infantry
Dirk, Germany – Prussian infantry representing a variety of periods.
Dalibor, Croatia – Napoleonic Austrian Grenzer
Erik-Jan, Netherlands – Napoleonic French Light Infantry
Andrea, Italy / Togo – Italian Bersaglieri, circa 1859.
Bluefalchion, USA – Indian Wars US Infantry
Marvin, Great Britain (…yours truly) – 17th Regiment of Foot, circa 1750.
And finally , aside from making the whole diorama, Jan also found time to contribute the following figures:
Jan, Germany – Napoleonic Danish Infantry, Confederate Infantry circa 1860s. Napoleonic French Infantry, Medieval hunters and WWII US Infantry.
I’ve now finished the 17th Regiment of Foot for the 2017 Benno’s Figures Forum Great Miniature Figures Parade. Lots of detail on the figures required lots of careful work. Thankfully. I had lots of time these past few days and only a few chores, furthermore I’ve really enjoyed painting them. The RedBox figures are very impressive, perhaps not the greatest I’ve ever seen, but with lots of character and crisp detail nonetheless!
RedBox is to be also commended for tackling the topic of the mid-18th century British army. This era was incredibly important for British infantry as it began to learn how to fight in conflicts right across the globe for the first time in its history. From the Carnatic Wars in India, to the French & Indian War in North America; from the port of Havana, to the coast of West Africa; and from the Philippines in Asia, to Silesia in Europe, the British army was soon to find itself pre-eminent on a global scale (although the American War of Independence was around the corner…). It seems unjust that figures on this era remain very few indeed at 1/72 scale.
I’ve bought a few boxes of these RedBox figures and I intend to keep dipping into it to build up a force in time. For now, my 17th Regiment (just like their real forbears) are also about to travel for service overseas. Instead of North America or the West Indies, however, the are making for Germany. There they will be incorporated into a parade diorama by a talented fellow called Jan and then to ultimately make their way with the rest of the marching force over to Arnhem in Holland for display at the FIGZ convention!
Finally, on a related topic, I draw your attention to a US re-enactment group who are dedicated to bringing to life the “The 17th Regiment of Foot” as they were at the time of the American War of Independence (a decade or so later than the era depicted with my figures). Their excellent website states that it was;
“…established in the early 2000’s with the mission is to provide for its members and the public the experiences of the common British soldier throughout the conflict, and more specifically at historic sites from the Hudson River Valley to Virginia.”
In particular, they have an excellent study of the regiment’s finest hour at the battle of Princeton and in the successful defence of a baggage train, both against overwhelming odds. They conclude:
“Their conduct at Princeton and at many other battles throughout the American War made the 17th Regiment one of the truly outstanding British units of the war.. “
It’s that time of year when a German gentleman named Jan from Benno’s Figures Forum announces the theme for this year’s ‘Group Build’; a collaboration in which Forum contributors from across Europe, nay – the world, collate their figures for display at the FIGZ convention in Arnhem. It is officially known as (take a deep breath) the Bennos Figures Forum Great Miniature Figures Parade (BFFGMFP)!!!
For this year, the idea is to assemble a huge column of marching figures. The figures involved can be from any historical period and the intention is to build up a parade which travels through all the ages. We’ve been encouraged to paint a unit from our own countries or regions and with this in mind, I’ve come up with the following idea:
This year, my contribution will be –
The 17th Regiment of Foot, circa 1740!
The “17th Regiment of Foot” became the “17th (Leicestershire) Regiment of Foot” in 1782, and then simply “The Leicestershire Regiment” following the Childers Reforms of 1881. Being a Leicestershire man myself, this certainly fulfils the brief to send figures representing my own country or region.
The figures I’m going to use have been lying around unpainted for a couple of years now. The figures are from Ukrainian manufacturer RedBox, specifically their British Infantry (Jacobite Rebellion 1745) set. It contains lots of marching figures, perfect for the BFFGMFP! Not having painted any RedBox figures before, I’m keen to try them out. At first glance, without being worthy of the description ‘sublime’, I’d say their figures look promising.
I have until May to produce my contribution of what I hope will be around 15-20 figures, so there’s plenty of time. I have other things demanding my attention in the meantime. I’m still putting together the next post in my equine painting tutorial as I develop my Russian Cuirassier horses, hopefully this should be posted in the coming week, work duties allowing.